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Choice Of Lifestyle In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

655 words - 3 pages

Choice of Lifestyle in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

One of many poignant themes in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is Edna Pontellier’s fundamental choice of lifestyle -- the choice of dedication to the aesthete, the solitude of art (as represented by Mademoiselle Reisz), or devotion to the all-consuming task of becoming a domestic goddess (as Madame Ratignolle has done). Considered mutually exclusive not only by Chopin but by American society as a whole, the role of the housewife leaves little room for the serious pursuit of art. As evidenced in Helen Watterson Moody’s contextual document "The Artist and Marriage," "The woman must decided, then, whether to pursue her chosen art or to marry will make her happier." The plethora of demands of the successful artistic lifestyle, which includes near absolute concentration on one’s craft, the time and space to truly create, and the solitude needed to express one’s essential self simply was not compatible with nineteenth century ideals of domesticity. Edna Pontellier, unwilling to submit to the relative asceticism of art and equally incapable of surrendering her soul to the burden of family, rejected the choices offered to her and simply chose not.

In the selected passage, both the trials of the artist’s life and Edna’s forbidden love are intertwined with the emotions and metaphors of Mademoiselle Reisz’s music. Mlle. Reisz, the spinster, with her "batch of rusty black lace with a bunch of artificial violets pinned to the side of her hair" (Chopin 47), "ungraceful curves and angles" (Chopin 86) and disagreeable nature does not make a picture to envy. The conspicuous absence of a family or friends reinforces the idea that the artist is alone but for her art. This grumpy, impetuous woman is clearly possessed by the gorgeous noise she creates and rightly so -- "The music grew strange and fantastic -- turbulent, insistent, plaintive and soft with entreaty. The shadows grew deeper. The music filled the room....

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